Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a stay-at-home order for the entire state just a few days ago, but there are already concerns over how it will be enforced – particularly in communities of color.
Carlton Mayers, senior policy manager for criminal justice reform at the Heartland Alliance, a nonprofit group serving vulnerable communities, says there needs to be clear guidance on how it will be enforced by police.
“We here at the Heartland Alliance are happy that the governor has issued the stay-at-home order to ensure the safety of all residents of Illinois uniformly across the state,” Mayers said. “However, we do think that more needs to be done in order to address the lack of specificity on the language that relates to law enforcement enforcing noncompliance of the executive order.”
The explicit lack of guidance “could escalate current frustrations,” Mayers said. “There is a lot of apprehension.”
He believes the best way to head off any potential problems is to give clear guidance to the public and law enforcement alike.
“What we are trying to do is get ahead of the curve and to make sure that transparency mechanisms and accountability mechanisms are put in place for law enforcement to make sure they are clear about how to go about engaging members of the public as it relates to compliance with the order so that the public is clear as to what the expectations are of them and of law enforcement,” said Mayers.
California, he says, has emphasized that police will only make arrests as a last resort. According to Mayers, people should only be arrested if someone is posing an identifiable threat to another individual.
He notes that California Gov. Gavin Newsom “has stated that even if people are in noncompliance the only penalty would be a misdemeanor charge that could result in imprisonment, a fine, or both. But they have always emphasized that their intention is not to arrest or incarcerate individuals for noncompliance.”
So far, Mayers has not heard of any complaints regarding enforcement of the order in Chicago and says at the moment, people are adjusting to changed conditions – but with the expectation that these emergency measures will only be in place for a short while.
“There definitely is frustration about adapting to this new norm that we are all living with now, especially when it comes to the length of time this will be in place. People are just very frustrated and hoping that this will be done in two weeks. But if it is not done in two weeks I believe that people’s frustrations are only going to escalate,” said Mayers. “I believe the only thing we can do at this point is prepare by trying to alleviate as much of the apprehension and frustration as possible (and) the best way to do that is by having transparency.”